[-empyre-] Welcome to the -empyre- April 2016 Discussion: Liquid Blackness: Formal Approaches to Blackness and/as Aesthetics

Murat Nemet-Nejat muratnn at gmail.com
Thu Apr 7 07:40:35 AEST 2016

Allessandra, to understand you clearly: are you saying that a contemporary
American or European artist (or even an artist from any other part of the
world) can not, is incapable of using blackness (liquid blackness)
independent from a racial dimension, whatever his or her intentions are?
That blackness is irrevocably marked with race? For instance, if in my work
I refer to the black hole, I am subliminally involved in a racial act?


On Wed, Apr 6, 2016 at 2:19 PM, Alessandra Raengo <araengo at gsu.edu> wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Thank you, Murat for this response. The tension you highlight, i.e. the
> fact that "the specific usages of blackness that are being discussed, even
> if from an "aesthetic," non-racial angle, are still being evaluated through
> a racial lens," is central to what we are trying to do: to engage the
> seeming opposition between race and aesthetics and claim blackness itself
> AS (among many many other things) a form of aesthetics.
> Here is the way the idea of “liquid blackness” enters this tension:
> on the one hand, by understanding aesthetics as always racial; in other
> words, we don’t believe that there is a blackness that one can simply
> abstract from its racial connotation and deploy as a pure formal/chromatic
> resource away and apart from race. Jenny mentions Fred Moten’s argument in
> “The Case of Blackness” regarding Ad Reinhardt ‘black paintings’  to
> support the claim that, even when understood simply as color, blackness
> cannot not be “saturated” by the socio-historical. Pursuing blackness as a
> mere expressive matter to be freely deployed in one’s artistic act, does
> not automatically divorce blackness from its social life.
> On the other hand, approaching blackness AS aesthetics means to focus on
> how it modulates the individual and social sensorium. When Fanon is hailed
> by the French child in the notorious primal scene, blackness is formed by
> this encounter as an experience of rearrangement of his sensorium (he is
> turned inside out, he feels scattered and amputated, etc. ) and blackness,
> as Darby English points out, is produced as an in-betweeness, not as a
> visual gift to its observer. English invites us to think of blackness as
> something that happens to the body when it is hailed as black.
> Once blackness is understood this way—as a mode of organization of the
> sensorium, the sensible, and the sensate (which is what we mean by
> “aesthetics”)—then it becomes possible to understand the way it moves and
> what it does even when it is NOT visually present (which is one of the
> reasons sound is so important, as Chip articulates)
> I am aware that this second part — i.e. blackness AS aesthetics— requires
> further development, which I hope we can pursue in the upcoming posts.
> Thank you, Murat, for the opportunity to begin to explain this important
> tension
> > On Apr 5, 2016, at 7:16 PM, Murat Nemet-Nejat <muratnn at gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> > ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> > Hi, it appears to me the specific usages of blackness that are being
> discussed, even if from an "aesthetic," non-racial angle, are still being
> evaluated through a racial lens. Black, historically, has had multiple
> associations, independent from race: for instance, the blackness in
> mourning, the blackness of an unlit room (in addition to implying race,
> blackness is an absolute absorption of light as in the black hole), the
> blackness associated with melancholy,  film noire, etc., etc.
> >
> > What I am trying to say is that black (liquid black) has the ability to
> imply something enriching, positively powerful. Black movement knew that in
> the expression "black is beautiful." I remember, not much before his
> assasination, Martin Luther King was saying that to create real revolution
> one must change the negative associations of black; not, if I understand
> correctly, limit or see as negative every use of black in the culture.
> >
> > Ciao,
> > Murat
> >
> > On Tue, Apr 5, 2016 at 2:04 PM, Jenny Gunn <jgunn7 at mygsu.onmicrosoft.com>
> wrote:
> > ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> > Alessandra and Chip are both right to emphasize the function of liquid
> blackness as a reading strategy, and one that I think becomes particularly
> useful in instances in which race is seemingly irrelevant. But as Fred
> Moten has illustrated in "The Case of Blackness," the possibility of
> abstracting blackness is only wishful thinking. I recently viewed the
> opening credits of David Fincher's 2011, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,
> in which the bodies of the protagonists played by Rooney Mara and Daniel
> Craig emerge in a liquid, viscous, oily sea of blackness. Why blackness?
> What can blackness do, what movement, multiplicity, amorphousness, does it
> allow for that nothing else seemingly can? As a reading strategy, liquid
> blackness provokes engagement with these questions.
> >
> > Jenny Gunn
> > PhD Student, Moving Image Studies
> > Department of Communication
> > Georgia State University
> > jgunn7 at gsu.edu
> >
> > ________________________________________
> > From: empyre-bounces at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au <
> empyre-bounces at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au> on behalf of Linscott,
> Charles <linscoc2 at ohio.edu>
> > Sent: Tuesday, April 5, 2016 12:59 PM
> > To: soft_skinned_space
> > Subject: Re: [-empyre-] Welcome to the -empyre- April 2016 Discussion:
> Liquid Blackness: Formal Approaches to Blackness and/as Aesthetics
> >
> > ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> > Hi all,
> >
> > In his superb 2011 book Sonic Bodies, Julian Henriques writes, “Sound
> asks questions in the way images often settle them.” I would modulate that
> statement for our discussion here, offering instead that images often SEEM
> to settle questions. What I mean is that the “fact” of Blackness—its ready
> legibility in cultures largely captured by scopic regimes of
> anti-Blackness—can be both confirmed and denied by our approaches to
> images. While epidermality plays an (allegedly) commonsensical role in
> processes of racialization, that same visual evidence is always already
> sutured to ideological conceptions of race. This imbrication between what
> is seen and what is thought results in visuality, which is neither wholly
> sensory nor entirely ideological, but both/and. Thinking about visuality
> helps to understand the complexities of OJ and a great many other things,
> including the liquidity of Blackness, as Alessandra and Jenny discuss.
> Thus, aesthetic and formal approaches to images provide an avenue whereby
> Blackness is a complex and heterogeneous set of processes and
> potentialities—less concrete and more fluid. This is not incidental to
> Black sonicity, which, while not so bound up with visual conceptions of the
> epidermal, nevertheless faces similar ideological constraints through
> notions such as vocal timbre, diction, cadence, and the “Blackness" of
> specific sounds and musics.
> >
> > Chip
> >
> >
> > > On Apr 4, 2016, at 6:35 PM, Alessandra Raengo <araengo at gsu.edu> wrote:
> > >
> > > ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> > > Thank you, Murat, for your contribution
> > >
> > > Part of what I think Jenny’s comments are attempting to highlight is
> how “liquid blackness” entails a reading strategy that privileges
> aesthetics and form, In doing that, it also emphasizes how blackness might,
> on the one hand, both “detach” and “attach” to people and things and, on
> the other hand, how it might “behave”, so to speak, on its own.
> > >
> > > As I believe other discussants will point out, attention to the
> “liquidity” of blackness can bring to the foreground a fundamental
> instability and multiplicity as Chip Linscott’s work on Miles Davis
> exemplifies. Simply put, in the very disjunctions that he describes with
> the concept of “talking B(l)ack” (between "performing and not performing,
> speaking and not speaking, sounding at will but not on command, all of
> which are of a piece with Miles’ celebrated use of silence and noise in his
> music”) one might find modes of black resistance as well as modes of black
> expansiveness. As Chip also writes, “in pushing at the edges of the
> synesthetic, Blackness hinges, swinging, never settling, between the poles
> of vision and hearing.” In so doing, it delivers a productive "break; sound
> cutting through image, vision percussively sounding on the body."
> > >
> > > I want to offer another example of this reading strategy. For the
> first "liquid blackness" Symposium (Spring 2014) I asked one of the
> graduate students  in my program—Adam Cottrell—to write an essay about two
> dance performances that were part of the event. One, by T.Lang, was an
> excerpt from a longer piece called “Post Up” and the other, called “Heart
> of Palm," was a piece created for the occasion by Jerylann Warner and her
> company Gathering Wild Dance. In his writing on these pieces, Adam focused
> on the possibility to read movement as form in order to “specify ‘liquid
> blackness’ as the active exercise of self-variation which complicates
> calcified and preconceived notions of blackness.” He concluded that in
> these two dances “blackness bubbles” understood both as noun (a thin film
> of liquid inflated with air) and a verb (to flow with a gurgling sound). In
> this bubbling, blackness expands and multiplies, suggesting a much larger
> and generative scope.
> > >
> > >
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